Cover art image of the Inbound International Parces Volume Variance report.

Objective

The U.S. Postal Service reported receipt of about 498 million international parcels for calendar year 2017. (For purposes of this report, parcels refer to ePackets, Letter Class Untracked Packets, Express Mail Service and Parcels.) Data on these inbound parcels is received and processed through the Postal Service’s Global Business System (GBS) and its components.

The Postal Service uses this data for a variety of reasons, but most notably the following:

  • Financial – GBS data is transmitted to the Foreign Post Settlement (FPS) system for billing. The FPS system transmits GBS data quarterly to the Revenue, Pieces, and Weight (RPW) reporting system for financial and regulatory reporting and monthly to the general ledger for accounting purposes. This module tracks data at specific points in time. Recent RPW data reported total inbound international mail
  • Operations – GBS data is transmitted several times a day to the Corporate Data Acquisition System where it is reformatted and then transmitted to the Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) to help analyze service performance, project staffing, and capture parcel volume and weight data.

Postal Service staff retrieve data from the RPW system and EDW as needed. Data from these systems was also used in recent Congressional hearings covering the use of international mail to facilitate trafficking of opioids.

Our objective was to evaluate the accuracy and completeness of financial and operational inbound international parcel volume data.

What the OIG Found

Although financial data on inbound international parcels is generally accurate and complete, we were unable to reconcile operational data used to manage these parcels with the financial data. Specifically:

  • Processes did not always exist to validate data flowing between the GBS and the EDW.
  • The Postal Service did not have data storage capacity to retain key EDW data, and operational data was purged which limited the ability to conduct reconciliations.
  • The Postal Service did not track mail volume for inbound Letter-Class Untracked Packets in the EDW.
  • Postal Service personnel did not have a mechanism to independently obtain reliable international parcel volume data from the EDW.

The Postal Service needs to have accurate, complete, and detailed inbound international parcel volume data to ensure:

  • The Postal Service is not assessed financial penalties when it does not meet service performance targets.
  • Appropriate Postal Service resources are assigned to timely process, deliver, and secure international parcels.
  • External stakeholders, such as Congress and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, understand the magnitude of potential prohibited items in the mail stream to make appropriate decisions related to their responsibilities.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended management:

  • Design and document regular controls over operational inbound international volume and weight data transmitted between the GBS and the EDW.
  • Evaluate and implement, as appropriate, a retention strategy for key data transferred from GBS to EDW that helps address operational data reliability concerns.
  • Develop a methodology to estimate and track mail volume for Letter Class Untracked Packets in EDW.
  • Create an internal reporting mechanism to generate inbound international parcel volume data from EDW.

Red full report

Comments (3)

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  • anon

    Although it is always refreshing to read a new OIG audit relating to International Mail operations, it is at the same time disappointing that previous “unresolved” recommendations somehow disappear from the overall discussion. Take Audit MS-AR-17-009 for example (Delayed Inbound International Mail, September 7, 2017). As a result of that particular audit, postal management disagreed with the recommendation to incorporate existing data into its own monitoring and reporting process – even though this would help improve its overall effectiveness of inbound mail operations. The basis of management’s disagreement was quickly dismissed by OIG as “unresolved until we coordinate a resolution with management.” As of today, there have been no changes to this recommendation and no ‘resolution’ has surfaced. Is the USPS OIG ever going to follow-up on so-called audit resolutions - especially when postal management’s dismissals make little or no sense?

    Apr 27, 2018
  • anon

    Thanks for the comment. We at the OIG continually track unresolved audit issues and regularly meet with Postal Service management for resolution. While we publicly report on open and closed recommendations in our Semiannual Report to Congress (the latest version can be found at the following: Fall 2017 Semiannual Report to Congress @ https://www.uspsoig.gov/document/fall-2017-semiannual-report-congress), we do not retroactively update individual published reports to reflect those discussions or related decisions. In regard to the specific recommendation in your comment, that audit issue remains open, and we continue to work with Postal Service management in hopes of achieving a resolution.

    Apr 30, 2018
  • anon

    Thank you for the clarification. I look forward to your future audits and posts on the subject.

    Apr 30, 2018